PUNTERS in Scotland lost almost £160 million on controversial fixed odds betting terminals last year, prompting calls for politicians to act on the growing problem.

Latest estimates released by the Campaign for Fairer Gambling show well over a third of the cash lost on around 4,000 machines in Scotland came from at risk or problem gamblers.

In total it is estimated £158m was lost on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs), of which £61m came from those with gambling issues.

Punters in Glasgow, where the local authority has been at the forefront of the campaign for curbs on the machines, typically stake more than £12 on each spin on FOBTs, electronic gaming machines on which it is possible to gamble £100 on a single 20-second spin.

On average Scottish players of the machines lose almost £1,700 a year. In the Glasgow Southside Central constituency of Labour's Anas Sarwar almost £10m was lost on FOBTs last year.

In total, across Scotland's 1,095 betting shop licences around £613m cash was inserted into FOBTs, according to the campaign.

The latest figures have prompted Glasgow City Council Treasurer Paul Ronney to again call for tighter curbs on "street corner casinos".

Alex Neil, the Social Justice Secretary, recently dropped proposals for planning controls, claiming a public consultation raised practical difficulties and insisted the government would seek new powers to regulate payday lenders and betting shops, as recommended by the Smith Commission on further devolution.

Mr Rooney said: "This research lays bare the scale of the problem with FOBTs.

"These terminals are especially prevalent in Glasgow and we want to see stronger powers, particularly within the planning system, to help curb their spread.

"It's simply not acceptable for 200 street corner casinos to have sprung up across the city in recent years without any effective check whatsoever."

The new data reveals that an estimated £1.5 billion was lost on FOBTs across the UK.

In Scotland there are an estimated 3997 FOBTs, each of which generates an estimated profit of £875 per week for bookmakers or £45,500 annually per machine.

As well as estimates showing cash inserted into FOBTs and amounts gambled and lost, the Campaign's analysis includes data on the amount of money lost by problem or at risk gamblers.

Scotland is estimated to have 166,287 FOBT users, 36,417 of whom are deemed to be "at risk" or "problem" gamblers. The data was calculated using Gambling Commission reports which included estimates of FOBT player populations and moderate to high risk problem gamblers.

Adrian Parkinson, consultant for the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, said: "This year's data is especially poignant because we have taken extra time to calculate the effect these machines are having on at risk or vulnerable gamblers. In this General Election year, politicians really need to wake up to the devastating effect these machines are having on communities up and down the country. There is one simple and effective way to reduce the harm of these machines without the need for primary legislation - reducing the maximum stake from £100 to £2."